Sand Pine! Will Blozan
  January 4, 2009


Holding a top spot on my "life list" for measurements was sand pine, Pinus
clausa. This past week a trip to Florida enabled me to visit these awesome
forests and begin gathering some accurate dimensional data on the species.
My initial goal was to visit a grove I have driven by many times near
Titusville, Fl. However, my trip began in Saint Cloud, Florida and
serendipitously I discovered a grove there as well.

Anyone who has seen the species knows they often grow in pure stands and
they are characteristically influenced by hurricanes. The trees in these
groves often lean in one direction and are all but toppled. This is because
they grow on pure sand which offers little stability. Somehow they resist a
full blowdown and lean at 10-15 degrees- the specific mechanism of this I am
not sure of. Perhaps they present much diminished wind resistance at that
angle and as such don't blow over. Maybe Lee has an idea?

Lake Lizzie sand pine forest, leaning west

If I had to describe the appearance of the species I would suggest a cross
of Jack pine and Virginia pine. The sand pines have a striking resemblance
to both of these more northern species, and like Jack pine one race has
serotinous cones.

Typical sand pine

The trees I measured were of the serotinous Ocala race, P. clausa var.
clausa which is geographically and ecologically distinct from the more
northerly non-serotinous Choctawhatchee race, P. clausa var. immuginata.
Sand pines are believed to be short-lived, but maintain an edaphic
persistence via fire. They are well adapted to the very poor soils and fire
frequency. Despite the poor soils and harsh environment they grow to
impressive sizes and are important for pulp wood. As a timber species they
are not prized due to numerous persistent dead limbs and often crooked

{The native range of Pinus clausa} Sand pine range map from USDA website

Sand pine bark detail

Sand pine new growth and cones

My first encounter with sand pines was at the Lake Lizzie Nature Preserve a
few miles east of Saint Cloud. Here, on a sand ridge between two lakes grew
a mature but hurricane pummeled grove. I found it interesting that the pines
were in full elongation with new growth. After exploration with the laser I
quickly identified the tallest tree. This tree was also not leaning heavily
and proved to be the largest girth I encountered. The combined measurements
actually proved to crush the current National Champion! So I scored on my
first measured sand pine! This impressive specimen was 25.5" dbh X 85.7'
tall X 28' spread for 173 AF points. The current champ has 153 AF points.

Largest and tallest sand pine across street from Lake Lizzie Nature Preserve
173 AF points

A nearby tree proved to be similar and has enough points to be a National
Co-Champ. This tree was 25.1" dbh X 81' tall X 31' spread for 168 AF points.

Largest pine measured at Lake Lizzie Nature Preserve 168 AF points

The grove near Titusville will have to wait for another day as I was out of
time and heading back north. However, I did not see any trees that would
challenge the Lake Lizzie tree. I have locations for some former state
champions which I will try to hunt down. Some have fallen but others may be
similar in size. I doubt that I have found the tallest or biggest- I was
just lucky to have found a nice grove to start with. Maybe "Lowland Larry"
can get some measurements of the northern race.

Will F. Blozan

President, Eastern Native Tree Society
President, Appalachian Arborists, Inc.